How the Likud's Agenda Alienates Americans

A very smart bit of analysis from Blake Hounshell:

Sullivan's criticism of Israel ought to worry defenders of the Jewish state, then, because he is a bellwether for a broader shift in American media and society that has happened over the last few years. Israel is using up a lot of the goodwill it had built up in the 1990s, when eminent statesmen like Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres made good-faith efforts toward peace with the Palestinians. Since then, the country has been governed by a series of unimaginative right-wing leaders who have pandered constantly to their settler base and chosen to solve political problems through the use of force. Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party may have their fingers on the pulse of their public right now, but their agenda is not one that appeals to most Americans, who strongly support Israel's right to exist but have little interest in underwriting the permanent occupation of the West Bank.

I don't think Andrew is necessarily a bellwether on this -- he's a bit too mercurial -- but as a general proposition I think Hounshell has it right. It seems as if many people in the American elite have decided that Israel is just as dysfunctional (and, sometimes, as brutal) as its Arab foes. Americans don't like intractable crises, and the Israeli government needs to understand this (it needs to understand, as well, that young American Jews are less likely to be reflexive defenders of Israel than their parents are).  At the risk of repeating myself (unavoidable on a blog, I guess), it will be risky for Israel to pull out its settlements from the West Bank, but it will be fatal for Israel to remain in the settlements, for moral and demographic reasons.

What Israel needs is a leader who will step forward and say, "Here is the way things should look," and then present an outline for the creation of a viable Palestine. The settlers will go nuts, but that's what they do. Hamas will go nuts, because that's what it does. But Hounshell is right: What is needed is a Rabin. I tend to think that Netanyahu has the potential to be this leader. Maybe it's more a hope than a reality at this point, but only someone from the right can bring the majority of Israelis to the painful compromises that are obviously necessary. And, to make the obvious point, one of the reasons this compromise is necessary is because American public opinion is one of Israel's most important battlegrounds.